Peretz: Us and Them
Martin Peretz has a brilliant essay on the essential weakness of John Kerry’s candidacy—his intention to delegate the security of the US to a morally bankrupt, thoroughly corrupt organization: Us and Them. (Hat tip: davesax.)
When I listen to John Kerry speak about the United Nations, I recall myself in a grade-school classroom in New York 55 years ago. At the front was hung a banner with a map of the Earth on a pale blue cloth—the organization’s flag. The legend underneath reads, the world’s last best hope. This would now be a macabre joke. The United Nations is bloated and corrupt, and its putrescence extends to the secretary-general’s very family and his inner office. Were its headquarters located in Lagos or Beijing, it would disappear because no one would come.
But, of course, the United Nations is located in New York City, where it is planning a multibillion-dollar physical rehabilitation and expansion. It instinctively grasps where its make-believe destiny lies. Yet, intrinsically and practically, it is following the path of the League of Nations. The League couldn’t protect the rights of national minorities in the multiethnic states established at Versailles. And, in a sense, the U.N.’s culpability is even greater, since it often has a presence in the countries where the killings take place. As hundreds of thousands of noncombatants are slaughtered, the United Nations watches on the ground and dithers in New York while its diplomats dine out on their importance at the city’s elegant salons and eateries.
Of course, there is one place where the United Nations does act reflexively and quickly: Israel. Hardly a week goes by that the secretary-general or one of his flunkies does not severely reproach Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s democratically elected government. You can pass a sweeping resolution condemning Israel anytime, anywhere at the United Nations (except in the Security Council, where the United States has a veto). Indeed, much of the U.N.’s public business concerns the supposed depredations of the Jewish state—given the numerical prowess of Arab and Muslim states in the organization and its agencies. But, listening to Kerry talk about the United Nations, you would not think its very routines are at all problematic. (And, since he has so much esteem for the United Nations and the “world community,” who can be sure that Kerry would employ the “permanent member” veto power on Israel’s behalf?)
The European Union also has great cachet with Kerry, and its mischievous views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are shared by Kerry advisers like Martin Indyk and Rand Beers. The European Union disapproves of Sharon’s plan to vacate all of the Gaza settlements and four in northern Samaria, claiming this is a cover for Israel retaining the rest of the West Bank. As Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made clear, the present Israeli government intends to withdraw tens of thousands of settlers from their homes. But it will not return to the precarious cease-fire lines of 1949. Yet, for France and Spain and, for that matter, Indyk, Israel’s withdrawal must be complete—that is, to the old frontiers, as if these will suddenly bring it peace. These are not Bush’s borders. And, since Kerry has not disavowed his advisers, it is more than reasonable to suspect that they are his.
Now, another Kerry eminence, Zbigniew Brzezinski, habitually cavalier about Israel’s perils, has put out a hash of tattered ideas that include bringing European and Muslim troops to Iraq—and perhaps even persuading Iran to foreclose its nuclear option and ending U.S. isolation in the struggle against Islamist terrorism. All that, and just by leaving Israel in the lurch. Kerry’s longtime foreign policy aide, Nancy Stetson, has been heard pooh-poohing his vague “only politics” assurances that he won’t do something like that. In West Palm Beach, Florida, recently, and in other places throughout the campaign, Kerry has told crowds of Jews how he once sang “Am Yisrael Chai” (“the people Israel lives”) across a chasm in the Negev desert. This schmaltz does not reassure me—and neither does Bill Clinton’s Florida schmaltz.
ohn Kerry speaks, not unfairly, of George W. Bush’s habits of denial. But Kerry himself is in denial. He is in denial about the United Nations. He is in denial about the Australian election that returned to office for an unprecedented fourth term its prime minister who has been, with his country, a pillar of the Iraq coalition. He is in denial about Japan, whose government, unlike Germany’s and France’s, does not carp at the United States. He is in denial about Afghanistan, where, for the first time in history, men and women, riding on donkeys and walking barefoot across great distances, have exercised the right to choose those who govern them. He is in denial about Iraq itself. The Jordanian daily Al Ra’i recently called Moqtada Al Sadr’s apparent retreat from armed struggle “a farewell to arms” that is as politically significant as the establishment of the provisional authority. Has Kerry come close to recognizing this? Has he acknowledged that the Bush administration has negotiated with nato a plan to send, starting in November, up to 3,000 soldiers to train Iraqi troops? These soldiers will be under the command of General David Petraeus, who is mustering the military might and political will to retake much of the Sunni triangle. Many Iraqis now have second thoughts about opposing the coalition. Even the BBC has said as much. But Kerry hasn’t.